1 June 2021

Hundreds of thousands of households are worried about losing their homes as the Government confirmed the temporary measure introduced to reduce the burden on renters during difficult financial times will expire as planned.

New research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) estimates 800,000 households fear eviction, with around half of that number expected to have already been given formal warning to pack their bags.

Renters across the country have been plunged into arrears as furloughed workers and self-employed people not eligible for support saw their income shrink overnight.

The timing of the move will raise eyebrows, given warnings this week that the UK is in in the early stages of a ‘third wave’ of Covid-19 infections.

The JRF said the temporary ban on bailiff-enforced evictions introduced in March 2020 – and extended several times since – has provided much-needed security to renters during the pandemic. 

Its survey of more than 10,000 households suggested ‘clear warning signs’ of a spike in evictions and homelessness as the ban lifts.

Rachelle Earwaker, from the JRF, said: ‘For the 450,000 families locked in rent debt, the prospect of securing a mortgage is simply unimaginable and, worse still, many will now struggle to secure a new home in the private rented sector just as the eviction ban ends.

‘High levels of arrears are restricting families’ ability to pay the bills and forcing many to rely on hidden borrowing.

‘This is not only deeply unjust, it is also economically naive and risks hampering our economic recovery, which is reliant on household spending increasing as society continues to reopen.

‘The Government’s decision to provide a generous tax break to wealthier homeowners through the stamp duty holiday while failing to protect renters points to a worrying two-tier recovery in which those who were prospering prior to the pandemic will continue to do so while those who have been hit hard will sink even further behind.

‘The cost of boosting support to tackle rent arrears is a fraction of the cost of the stamp duty holiday.’

Homelessness charity Shelter backed the JRF’s criticism of the decision not to extend the eviction ban on its Twitter account, writing: ‘The eviction ban has been a lifeline for renters who have weathered job losses, falling incomes and rising debts in this pandemic.

‘The Government needs to do more. It cannot waver from delivering a Renters’ Reform Bill that scraps Section 21 “no fault” evictions altogether. 

‘And in the meantime, it must offer renters with crippling Covid-arrears a package of financial aid.’

A Government spokesperson said: ‘Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have taken unprecedented action to support renters and help keep them in their homes including introducing a comprehensive £352 billion support package, which has prevented widespread build-up of rent arrears.

‘Thanks to the success of the vaccine programme, national restrictions are gradually being eased and it’s now the right time to start to lift the emergency measures we put in place.

‘Tenants will continue to be supported with longer notice periods and financial help is still available such as the furlough scheme, which has been extended until the end of September. Evictions will not be carried out if a member of the home has Covid-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.’

Source: Metro